Prepping brass consists of a few distinct steps, some of which are optional and others which are mandatory:
- Sourcing brass. You can purchase new, purchase used brass, shoot new and save, or pickup range brass. The quality of the brass is important. So new reloaders are advised to either shoot and save, purchase new, or purchase used brass from a reliable source. (See “Big Dog Brass” on this site for one source of high quality used brass.) Picking up brass requires that you know what you’re looking at and looking for in terms of the condition of the brass. This can be straightforward, but at times can pose a challenge you don’t need to deal with when you’re just getting started.
- Cleaning brass. This is optional, depending on its condition. If you sourced new, shot and saved, or purchased properly reconditioned brass it’s totally unnecessary.
- Cleaning primer pockets. Optional. Some people never do anymore. If your cases are at least once-fired and the pockets are grungy, you certainly can clean them if you wish. The tool to do this is cheap and it only takes a few seconds per case. The reality is that the amount of grunge that can build up in a primer pocket is typically rather constant and stable. Once the case has been loaded and fired, each subsequent ignition of a primer blows away as much crud as it re-deposits. So it’s not something that continues to build up. You either use the primer pockets grungy or clean. It’s up to you. Even if I were loading for ULTRA accuracy, cleaning the primer pockets is probably one of the last steps I’d consider to squeeze that last tenth of an inch out at 100 yards.
- Trimming. This can be optional. Pistol brass typically never changes enough during its useful life that the cases will need trimming. I check the lengths occasionally, but seldom find any cases that are of concern. Rifle brass is a different story. Cases typically lengthen with use and you should check them periodically. They will need to be trimmed if they get beyond the published maximum case length. An easy tool to check case length is the Lyman case measuring tool. (See this product in “Equipment Reviews.” Trimmers are also reviewed.)
- One final step that is technically “case prep.” Once you have resized your brass, if you used any lube, unless you know for certain that the lube you used is compatible with primers and powder and will not degrade either, you need to clean your brass after resizing. If you use a cleaning components (walnut shells and corn cobs are common), pieces of the media can get stuck in the primer pockets. So it’s important to check them before proceeding to insert primers.
Joel Guerin, Versailles, Kentucky